Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

THL Title Text
Antiquities of Zhang Zhung
by John Vincent Bellezza
Edited by Geoffrey Barstow, Mickey Stockwell and Michael White
Tibetan & Himalayan Library
Published under the THL Digital Text License.

I.1. Residential Structures Occupying Summits: Fortresses, breastworks, religious buildings, palaces, and related edifices

Kardung KharDkar dung mkhar

Basic site data

  • Site name: Kardung KharDkar dung mkhar
  • English equivalent: Conch White Castle
  • Site number: A-103
  • Site typology: I.1b
  • Elevation: 4260m
  • Administrative location (township): RigongRi gong
  • Administrative location (county): PurangSpu rang
  • Survey expedition: HTCE
  • Survey date: May 1, 2002
  • Contemporary usage: Religious devotions.
  • Identifiable Buddhist constructions: A new chapel, reliquary chötenmchod rten and other religious emblems.
  • Maps: UTRS X, HAS C4
  • View Place Dictionary Entry
  • View Site Images

General site characteristics

Kardung KharDkar dung mkhar is the name of ruins located on an isolated eponymous hilltop rising above KardungDkar dung village (the highest elevation agricultural settlement in Purang MéSpu rang smad). This conical hill has commanding views south over the PurangSpu rang valley. Occupying an extremely strategic location, the old stronghold straddled the route between the pastoral highlands of Purang TöSpu rang stod and the agricultural valleys of Purang MéSpu rang smad. Important lines of trade and communication are likely to have been controlled from this point. Earthen wall remnants on the north side of the summit are identified as belonging to a ten chidarbstan phyi dar era monastery. Dissolving foundations and revetments to the south of this ruined monastery are reported to be the traces of Kardung KharDkar dung mkhar. This facility appears to have consisted primarily of earthen structures. There are also highly obscured cobble wall fragments. A reliquary chötenmchod rten of a personality known as Kyiu Tsampa RinpochéSkyi’u mtshams pa rin po che now stands on the ruins of Kardung KharDkar dung mkhar. Below the summit on a wide shelf are thickly arrayed cobble foundations of what is supposed to have been the original village of KardungDkar dung. Ancient habitations in Upper Tibet were customarily situated above the valley bottoms on high ground. On the flanks of the KardungDkar dung hill are shrines to the local protective deities, Makzor GyelpoDmag zor rgyal mo and Medo LhatsenMes do lha btsan (the yüllhayul lha of Langa TsoLa lnga mtsho).

Oral tradition

According to elders of KardungDkar dung village (including its religious head, Ngödrup DorjéDngos grub rdo rje), the first fortress of KardungDkar dung, Kardung Khyungdzong KarmoDkar dung khyung rdzong dkar mo, was founded no less than 900 years ago. At around that time a Buddhist monastery known as Mangdzhuk GönpaMang bzhug dgon pa was also established on the north side of the summit.76 It was eventually destroyed by the SingpaSing pa (probably the Ladakhi). In the time of the fortress, the village of KardungDkar dung was situated on a bench elevated above the south and west foot of the KardungDkar dung hill. It is said that around 100 residences were once located here. South of Mangzhuk GönpaMang bzhug dgon pa, a Nyingmarnying ma monastery associated with Namkha KhyungdzongNam mkha’ khyung rdzong (a well-known 19th century religious center nestled in the PurangSpu rang Himalaya) was eventually built. It was destroyed in the Chinese Cultural Revolution. This monastery stands on the site of the old fortress, as does the recently built Mani LhakhangMa ṇi lha khang. Local sources also state that the KardungDkar dung hill was once encircled by a defensive wall punctuated by four gateways. Tsering ChömpelTshe ring chos ’phel, a cultural luminary residing in India, opines (in personal communication) that the fortress of Kardung KharDkar dung mkhar may date to pre-Buddhist times (the prominent geographic position of the site encourages such speculation).


[76] According to the historical text Khorchak Gönpé Logyü Depter Ngülku Chesumgi Ngönjung Tam’Khor chags dgon pa’i lo rgyus deb gter dngul sku mched gsum gyi sngon byung gtam, in the tenth century CE, the king of PurangSpu rang under the behest of the great KardungDkar dung master Chöjé Dzamling DrakpaChos rje ’dzam gling grags pa founded the monastery of Serkhar Drakpé TsuklakkhangGser mkhar grags pa’i gtsug lag khang, as well as a lower and upper castle at KardungDkar dung (Gugé Tsering GyelpoGu ge tshe ring rgyal po, Ngari ChöjungMnga’ ris chos ’byung, 115).

Note Citation for Page

John Vincent Bellezza, Antiquities of Zhang Zhung: A Comprehensive Inventory of Pre-Buddhist Archaeological Monuments on the Tibetan Upland (Charlottesville, VA: Tibetan & Himalayan Library, 2010), .

Bibliographic Citation

John Vincent Bellezza. Antiquities of Zhang Zhung: A Comprehensive Inventory of Pre-Buddhist Archaeological Monuments on the Tibetan Upland. Charlottesville, VA: Tibetan & Himalayan Library, 2010.